Reaction from Easter Road: 'It’s a sickener, we should see the game out'

Jack Ross’ side fail to capitalise on first-half superiority

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 6:00 am
Christian Doidge, left, scored the opener

Dario Del Fabro’s sucker punch may not have carried the same weight as a smack in the face from Regis Prograis, but it probably made world boxing champion and Hibs fan Josh Taylor wince.

A guest of the Easter Road club, the super-lightweight ace made a half-time bow, sporting the WBA and IBF belts he won by outpointing the American to unify the titles in what has been described as one of the, if not the, scrap of the year.

At that point, in boxing parlance, Jack Ross’ side had Kilmarnock on the ropes, a strangely subdued Ayrshire outfit having barely landed a glove on the home team ahead thanks to Christian Doidge’s sixth goal in just four games.

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When Jason Naismith thundered in a second barely two minutes after the interval, Hibs appeared to have landed a knockout blow only to drop their guard as Killie hauled themselves up off the canvas, Alex Bruce’s strike breathing new life into Angelo Alessio’s players.

And with seconds remaining up stepped Del Fabro to take advantage of further hesitancy inside the home penalty area to fire in a last-gasp equaliser.

The warning signs, it has to be said, had been there, Hibs again, inexplicably allowing their opponents back into a match which should have been well won in very much the same way Wednesday night’s opponents Ross County had engineered a similar result only a few weeks ago.

Naismith admitted he was at a loss to explain exactly what had happened other than to say: “I think we go into our shell, it’s evident we do that and doing the things we were doing.

I do not know why that is, to be honest. We need to put our finger on it before we move on and I am sure the gaffer will have a meeting and we will go through it.”

Del Fabro’s intervention certainly took the shine off what had been an impressive performance from Hibs – at least for that first hour – but as Ross’ time as head coach moves on, he will realise a propensity to concede last-minute goals, a problem which long preceded his arrival, has to be addressed.

St Johnstone did it at Easter Road early in the season, followed by the Staggies and, now, Kilmarnock. Even in later beating Saints and against St Mirren on Tuesday night, goals were lost in added-on time even if, thankfully, they didn’t cost in terms of points.

All too often, though, they have, a major reason why, while Hibs are now nine games unbeaten, six of those have ended in draws, seven stalemates in total, the greatest number recorded by any Premiership side.

In all, they have now conceded 15 points from winning positions, something for Ross to ponder going forward, his side having now consolidated their place in the top six but with fans wondering just where they might have been.

“Gutted,” admitted goalkeeper Chris Maxwell. “I thought for the most part we defended really well. I think we have proved in recent weeks how dogged we have been defensively, you do not go on a nine-game unbeaten run without being good on that side of the game.

“However, we do not look to go into any game no matter who we are playing looking for a draw. We want to win every game. It’s a sickener at the end, as a collective group we should see the game out.”

A further frustration for Maxwell will be the fact that as the last line of defence he’s hardly been overworked in the majority of these matches, the outcomes, in the main, a litany of missed chances at one end and the opposition simply being more ruthless when offered a glimpse of

goal.

The on-loan Preston player added: “You can sit here and analyse every part of the game, the what ifs but the fact is we haven’t won the game when we should have. We can pick the bones out of it and come to any conclusion we like. We are all gutted.”

Hibs (4-1-2-1-1): Maxwell; Naismith, Porteous, Hanlon, Stevenson; Hallberg, Slivka, Newell (Horgan 77), Allan (Mallan 65), Kamberi (Boyle 71), Doidge. Substitutes not used: Marciano, James, A Jackson, Shaw.

Kilmarnock (4-3-3): Branescu; O’Donnell, Bruce, Del Fabro, Hamalainen, Power, Dicker, El Makrini (Thomas 79), Burke, Sow (S Jackson 80), McKenzie (Millar 80). Substitutes not used: Koprivec, Hendrie, Johnson,

Wilson.